David Niven Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (3)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (48)  | Personal Quotes (28)  | Salary (1)

Overview (5)

Born in London, England, UK
Died in Château-d'Oex, Switzerland  (complications from ALS)
Birth NameJames David Graham Niven
Nickname Niv
Height 5' 11¼" (1.81 m)

Mini Bio (1)

James David Graham Niven was born on the feast day of St David. Following Niven senior's death at Turkey's infamous Suvla Bay, Niven's mother went on to marry his biological father, the Conservative politician Sir Thomas Comyn-Platt, but it was years before the true father/son relationship was acknowledged.

David Niven attended Stowe School and Sandhurst Military Academy and served for two years in Malta with the Highland Light Infantry. At the outbreak of World War II, although a top-line star, he re-joined the army (Rifle Brigade). He did agreed to appear in two films during the war, both of strong propaganda value (Spitfire (1942) and The Way Ahead (1944)).

Despite six years' virtual absence from the screen, he came in second in the 1945 Popularity Poll of British film stars. Upon his return to Hollywood after the war he was made a Legionnaire of the Order of Merit (the highest U.S. order that can be awarded to a non-citizen), which was presented to Lt. Col. Niven by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Crook/Robert Sieger

Family (3)

Spouse Hjördis Genberg (14 January 1948 - 29 July 1983)  (his death)  (2 children)
Primula Rollo (16 September 1940 - 21 May 1946)  (her death)  (2 children)
Children David Niven Jr.
Jamie Niven
Parents William Edward Graham Niven
Henriette Julia Degacher

Trade Mark (4)

[names]: his characters are often named after his real-life friends, or refer to his real-life friends as sources of information.
Charming public persona and characters
Dry but sardonic English wit
A natty dresser often with a thin moustache and slick hair

Trivia (48)

After the UK declared war in 1939, he was one of the first expatriate British actors to go back and join the army. Although Niven had a reputation for telling good stories over and over again, he was totally silent about his war experience. He said once: "I will, however, tell you just one thing about the war, my first story and my last. I was asked by some American friends to search out the grave of their son near Bastogne. I found it where they told me I would, but it was among 27,000 others, and I told myself that here, Niven, were 27,000 reasons why you should keep your mouth shut after the war".
He once asked Greta Garbo why she quit making movies. She answered, "I had made enough faces".
During his war service, his batman was Pvt. Peter Ustinov.
Contrary to a popular myth, he was not a cousin of actor Patrick Macnee. According to Macnee, in Sheridan Morley's 1985 biography "The Other Side of the Moon,", his elder brother Max and Patrick's mother were friends and Max was described as an "uncle," as opposed to a cousin. However, there was no blood link.
Ian Fleming recommended him for the role of James Bond for Dr. No (1962), but producer Albert R. Broccoli thought that Niven was too old.
In the James Bond novel "You Only Live Twice," by Ian Fleming, he is referred to, and a pet bird in the story was named after him. Three years after the book was released, he played Bond in Casino Royale (1967).
Knew his first wife, Primula Rollo, 17 days before he married her. He knew his second wife, Hjördis Genberg, 10 days before marrying her. Father, with Primula Rollo, of David Niven Jr. and Jamie Niven; and the father, with Hjordis, of two adopted daughters, Kristina (adopted 1960) and Fiona (adopted 1962).
Died at Château-d'Oex, Riviera-Pays-d'Enhaut District, Vaud, Switzerland, on the same day as his The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) and Stairway to Heaven (1946) co-star Raymond Massey. He was interred there.
Niven claimed he was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland (he thought it sounded more romantic) until an appearance on the radio show "Desert Island Discs" when he admitted he was born in London. His mother was there for the day visiting a specialist regarding the pregnancy when he was born.
Niven's father, Lt. William Edward Graham Niven, was killed during World War I at the battle of Gallipoli on 21 August 1915, aged 38, while serving with the Berkshire Yeomanry. He was reported missing until 1917. A landowner, William Niven left a widow, Henriette Julia (née Degacher), of French and Welsh descent, and four children (Max, David, Joyce, and Grizel).
Once wrote that as a child, he felt superior to others. He attributed this to the fact that when reciting the Lord's Prayer in church, he thought for several years that the correct phrasing was, "Our Father, who art a Niven . . . "
Grandson Ryan (born 1998), by daughter Fiona. Grandson Michael (born 1990), by daughter Kristina. Grand-daughters Fernanda and Eugenie, by son Jamie.
Became friends with Clark Gable during the 1930s. While Gable was serving in England during World War II, he used to stay over at the Nivens' cottage and spend time with Niven's wife and children. A few years later Niven's wife died in a tragic accident, and Gable did his best to comfort him. Niven said, "Clark was drawing on his own awful experience [his wife Carole Lombard 's tragic death] to steer me through mine".
His first wife, Primula Rollo, died tragically while attending a dinner at fellow actor Tyrone Power 's house. After dinner, while playing hide and seek, she opened what she thought was a closet door but instead tumbled down the basement stairs and onto the concrete floor. She died shortly after.
Died the same day as his The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) and Stairway to Heaven (1946) co-star Raymond Massey.
After he left the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst he was asked to write down his three preferred regiments; he wrote, "Anything but the HLI [Highland Light Infantry]". He was, of course, commissioned into the HLI, later being transferred to the Rifle Brigade.
Ex-father-in-law of Barbara Niven.
Joined the British Army's Rifle Brigade regiment and served through Dunkirk, joining the commandos and later the secret Phantom Reconnaissance Regiment. He spent most of the time behind German lines with the latter outfit, a rough, tough, hit-and-run group harassing the enemy.
Met director Blake Edwards, when Edwards was writing and directing films for Four Star Television, a production company partly owned by Niven.
Close friend of Michael Trubshawe. They served together in a Highland Regiment in Malta in the 1930s and Trubshawe figures prominently in Niven's biography, "The Moon's A Balloon". Niven states: "He swiftly made a name for himself in television and one of his earliest screen appearances was in The Guns of Navarone (1961)--a lovely bonus for me." Niven does not mention Trubshawe's earlier appearance in Around the World in 80 Days (1956). Trubshawe was Niven's best man on the occasion of his two marriages, and also godfather to Niven's son, David Jr.
As a joke he agreed to celebrate the wedding of two gorillas and to be the godfather of their first son.
Was too ill to attend Grace Kelly's funeral in September 1982.
During his final illness his weight dropped from 230 lbs to just 110 lbs.
He was the visual inspiration for the original illustrations of super-villain and archenemy of the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro (created in 1961). Niven was 51 years at the point.
He died on 29 July 1983 at age 73, two years after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as motor neurone disease (MND) or Lou Gehrig's disease -- a disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Some also use the term motor neuron disease for a group of conditions of which ALS is the most common.
At his funeral,the largest wreath was from the porters at Heathrow Airport. There was a card which read, "To the finest Gentlemen who ever walked these halls. He made a porter feel like a King".
During his final illness (Lou Gehrig's disease), Niven's speech would slur in interviews, causing some to think he was drunk. In the last three films he made (Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), Better Late Than Never (1983), and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)), his voice had to be dubbed by Rich Little.
Audrey Hepburn attended his funeral.
Niven wound up with the deepest pool in Europe due to a miscommunication with the builders. They thought he meant 15 meters when all he wanted was 15 feet.
He was originally wanted for the role of Will Scarlet in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) but was on holiday in England, so the part went to Patric Knowles.
News that Niven--who was merely an extra at the time--had been signed by Irving Thalberg of MGM prompted independent producer Samuel Goldwyn to sign him to a long-term contract.
The title of his autobiography, "Bring on the Empty Horses", is taken from a command given by director Michael Curtiz during the filming of The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) in which Niven had a featured part. Curtiz, a Hungarian notorious for his poor command of English, wanted a lot of riderless horses in the background of the climactic charge, but couldn't make himself understood to his assistant directors. Finally he exploded, "Bring on the empty horses!".
He was Michael Anderson's choice to play Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery in a Columbia Pictures epic, "16th of December: The Battle of the Bulge," which had the blessing of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Defense Department, but the project was abandoned after Warner Brothers used the title Battle of the Bulge (1965) for a film starring Henry Fonda.
He appeared in one film produced by his son David Niven Jr.: Escape to Athena (1979).
He and his Stairway to Heaven (1946), The Rogues (1964) and Prudence and the Pill (1968) co-star Robert Coote both played Captain Fritz von Tarlenheim in different adaptations of the 1894 novel "The Prisoner of Zenda" by Anthony Hope: Niven in The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) and Coote in The Prisoner of Zenda (1952).
Tried to leave the army in September 1944 in order to return to Hollywood.
Appeared in eight Best Picture nominees: Cleopatra (1934) (uncredited), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) (uncredited), Dodsworth (1936), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Bishop's Wife (1947), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Separate Tables (1958), and The Guns of Navarone (1961). Two of these -- Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and Around the World in 80 Days (1956) -- won the award.
He was attached to the role of Captain Phillip Blumburtt in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), but died before filming began. The role was meant to be a tribute to his work in The Guns of Navarone (1961), which was one of the inspirations for the film.
He has appeared in four films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Dodsworth (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Wuthering Heights (1939) and The Pink Panther (1963).
Naturally gifted as a raconteur, David Niven entertained his audience with amusing stories of his past.
He was the only major British star to join the military when WWII broke out.
A memorial service was held for him at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London on 27 October 1983.
He was close friends with Robert Wagner and was able to comfort him when Natalie Wood died, just as he had been comforted by Clark Gable when his wife Primmie died. All 3 lost wives they adored in tragic incidents.
Didn't like watching his own films.
He'd raced yachts for England and won the Cumberland Cup competition against France.
His favourite film was Around the World as it gave him the opportunity of meeting up with old friends.
Wrote a book Round the Rugged Rocks,.

Personal Quotes (28)

I've been lucky enough to win an Oscar, write a best-seller-my other dream would be to have a painting in the Louvre. The only way that's going to happen is if I paint a dirty one on the wall of the gentlemen's lavatory.
[on Separate Tables (1958)] They gave me very good lines and then cut to Deborah Kerr while I was saying them.
[during an Academy Award presentation. responding to the unexpected entrance of a streaker] Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?
I have a face that is a cross between two pounds of halibut and an explosion in an old clothes closet.
Can you imagine being wonderfully overpaid for dressing up and playing games?
I suppose everybody becomes an actor because they want to be liked. I do enjoy being liked, but I don't work hard at it. I try to do the best I can for my age.
In 40 years I've never been late. They pay me enough--so the least I can do is arrive sober, be on time and know all the jokes.
I make two movies a year to take care of the butcher and the baker and the school fees. Then I try to write, but it's not that easy. Acting is what's easy.
I wonder why it is, that young men are always cautioned against bad girls. Anyone can handle a bad girl. It's the good girls men should be warned against.
You can count on Errol Flynn, he'll always let you down.
The hardest thing in the world to do, for a director, is a comedy. If you do a drama that doesn't quite come off, you may still have a fairly good drama, but if a comedy does not come off, you've got a disaster. Blake [Blake Edwards] takes a big chance every time he does a comedy. There's no covering up with a comedy. They're frightfully hard to write, very difficult to direct, and they're not at all easy to act, as a matter of fact.
[on acting] This isn't work. It's fun. The whole thing is fun. I hear actors say, "I have to go to work tomorrow". Nonsense. Work is eight hours in a coal mine or a government office. Getting up in the morning and putting on a funny mustache, and dressing up and showing off in front of the grown-ups, that's play, and for which we're beautifully overpaid. I've always felt that way. After all, how many people in the world are doing things that they like to do?.
[on Frank Sinatra] So much has been written about Sinatra, of his talent, his generosity, his ruthlessness, his kindness, his gregariousness, his loneliness and his rumored links with the Mob that I can contribute nothing except to say that he is one of the few people in the world I would instinctively think of if I needed help of any sort. I thought of him once when I was in a bad spot; help was provided instantly.
[on Audrey Hepburn] A great lady. It's quite an achievement to spend that long in Hollywood and not become a Hollywood product. She always maneuvered around that--and that takes intelligence. She was always her own person.
[on Marlene Dietrich] Marlene, the most glamorous of all, she was also one of the kindest.
[on Humphrey Bogart] It took a little while to realize that he had perfected an elaborate camouflage to cover up one of the kindest and most generous of hearts. Even so, he was no soft touch and before you were allowed to peek beneath the surface and catch a glimpse of the real man, you had to prove yourself. Above all, you had to demonstrate conclusively to his satisfaction that you were no phony.
[on Lauren Bacall] Betty Bacall was the perfect mate for Bogey [Humphrey Bogart]--beautiful, fair, warm, talented and highly intelligent. She gave as good as she got in the strong personality department. Women and men love her with equal devotion.
[on Errol Flynn] Flynn was a magnificent specimen of the rampant male. Outrageously good looking, he was a great natural athlete who played tennis with Don Budge and boxed with Mushy Callahan. The extras, among whom I had many friends, disliked him intensely.
[on Jack L. Warner] He was a generous host, a big gambler at work and at play, and with superb confidence he put his money where his mouth was.
[on Cary Grant] Cary's enthusiasm made him search for perfection in all things, particularly the three that meant most to him--filmmaking, physical fitness and women.
Actors don't retire. They just get offered fewer roles.
[on why he never divorced Hjördis Genberg] I would like to be remembered as one Hollywood actor who never got divorced.
I thought it would make Hjordis [wife Hjördis Genberg] happy if we adopted a child. We talked to friends about the idea and they thought it would be marvelous. Hjordis said she'd love to adopt a Swedish girl, so we did. Her name was Kristina. [NOTE: The child was in fact Niven's by an affair with an 18-year-old model. Hjordis had to put up with the pretense.]
[In 1980, after 32 years of marriage to Hjördis Genberg, his second wife] She isn't good company, and she can't do anything. What she can do is make herself look very good, and she can arrange flowers. But that's all.
[About the costumes he wore during Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948)] I asked Jack Hawkins to tell me honestly if I looked like a prick. He said, "Yes, and so do I". And he did, too. We all looked like pricks.
[on Greta Garbo] The longer she stayed away, the stronger and stranger the Garbo myth grew.
[on Errol Flynn's alleged pro-Nazism and bisexuality] There is no way Errol could have been a spy--he was way too busy screwing girls. If that answers both questions for you, so be it.
[Telegram to Tony Curtis, his opponent for Best Actor Oscar (1958)] Congratulations, chum, but I want to make one thing crystal clear. Unless someone happens to be looking over my shoulder, I'll be voting for myself.

Salary (1)

Casino Royale (1967) $500,000

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